Seniors find purpose, joy in the workforce

Retirement doesn’t necessarily have to mean your working days are over

Rick Payne with some of his co-workers at Sidney’s Stonestreet Cafe.

Rick Payne with some of his co-workers at Sidney’s Stonestreet Cafe.

For a supposedly retired guy, Kenny Podmore sure is busy.

When he came to Canada from the U.K. 15 years ago, Podmore was a retired transportation department head for a social services agency and had spent time as a military policeman. He and his wife Anita came to Sidney and fell in love with the community.

Wanting to give a little something back to the town that welcomed them, Podmore began to volunteer in various roles. He soon found that he had a lot more to give and his wife suggested that perhaps he wasn’t quite ready for the rigors of full retirement yet.

“She was quite right,” Podmore says.

After getting his work permit, Podmore found a job with the commissionaires and spend eight years with them. Later on, he saw a new hotel being built on the Sidney waterfront (today’s Sidney Pier Hotel) and had told his wife he wondered if they would be looking for a concierge.

“I inquired about that during the early stages of the hotel construction,” he said. “I was called back for an interview and got the job.

“I was almost their first hire there. I started with them in April 2007 and it officially opened in May and June that year.”

Podmore said he is very lucky to have gotten such a job, adding he considers it worth more to him than just the paycheque.

“It’s a wonderful, family atmosphere that offers the personal touch,” he said. “This is my way of saying thank-you and giving a little back.”

He considers himself a people person and that shows in Podmore’s other roles in Sidney — as the community town crier at many local events, to his seat on the town council. All in all, he said, he thinks his family and Sidney have been a great match.

But why continue to work? Podmore said people his age (seniors) have a lot to offer by way of their years of experience.

“Seniors have a good work ethic and we’re reliable.”

He admitted there is always something new to learn — such as technology — but the basics are still there, like people skills and pride in service. He encourages other seniors to stay in the workforce, maybe try something new.

“Start with volunteering, say with Beacon Community Services. It’s a great way to start and it worked for me.”

•   •   •   •

Rick Payne found himself in a new job — a new field — as a result of a flip comment to Doug Stuart, owner of Sidney’s Stonestreet Cafe. A regular at the coffee shop, Rick and his wife Thelma were having coffee with Stuart when Rick was nearing his 65th birthday and his retirement from sales and sales management work.

“He said that someday I might be working for him and I said sure,” Rick recalls. “I was not serious at the time.”

Stuart, however, asked Rick to come into the cafe and try it out to see if he liked it. Rick liked it very much and after only a week of official retirement, went to work behind the coffee shop counter. And that was five years ago.

Rick said he never intended to do nothing in his retirement, but hadn’t counted on finding great people to work with, great customers and a great boss. After his first two years, Rick was made the cafe manager.

“Doug is great employer. He demands honesty and all of the stuff that goes along with that. He’s also has a good eye for hiring people.”

That fits in with what older folks have to offer to the workforce, he continued. Like Podmore, Rick said mature workers, in general, have a strong work ethic, are honest, punctual and most of all, they want to work.

Because of his background — most of his life working on commission and then struggling to find work for a period of three years after his 55th birthday — and contacts made at Stonestreet, Rick was asked to speak with a  group of people, aged 55-plus, who were having a hard time getting back into the workforce. He said he found some people have attitudes about what it means to be older — and that can be a barrier in finding a new job.

“People sometimes put age restrictions on themselves. You need to change that mind-set. Be open to general work and see where it takes you.”

He said he hopes he can offer some encouragement to others who want to contribute after they reach the so-called retirement age.

To get to that level, he said it’s important that people — at any age — network with others, even if they’re in a different field of work. Rick said a lot of jobs can be found through people you know, not necessarily through help wanted ads.

“I don’t care how good looking you are, how much money you have … it’s about who you know. They just might know someone else who really needs you.”

Most importantly, he said, you have to do something you love.